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Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
Judges sworn in for Khmer Rouge
A tree used for killing children at  memorial on the outskirts of the capital Phnom Penh
Children were among the 1.7m Cambodians who lost their lives
Judges for Cambodia's long-awaited Khmer Rouge genocide trials have been sworn in, a key step towards bringing former leaders to justice.

The judges - some Cambodian, others foreigners appointed by the UN - attended a special ceremony in the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

The trials are expected to start in mid-2007, though no date has been set.

Some 1.7m people are thought to have died during Cambodia's harsh Khmer Rouge regime, between 1975 and 1979.

Many people had begun to fear that the trials would never get off the ground.

Since Cambodia first asked the United Nations for help in 1997, the government has been reluctant to commit resources, and foreign donors have provided much of the funding.

Nuon Chea: 80, chief lieutenant to Pol Pot, most senior surviving member of regime
Khieu Samphan: 74, head of state 1976-79. Pol Pot and Ieng Sary both married members of his family
Ieng Sary: Age unknown, foreign minister 1976-78. Said to be suffering serious heart condition

In 2003, Cambodia and the UN agreed jointly to convene the trials, but many analysts said the process could be undermined by the dire state of Cambodia's judicial system, which was badly debilitated by the Khmer Rouge policy of targeting the intelligentsia for extermination.

But now a complex formula of majority voting by both Cambodian and international judicial officials has been devised, to try to ensure that tribunal decisions are backed by both sides.

The swearing-in ceremony "erases the negative speculation people have had in the past that there won't be any trial", said Reach Sambath, a spokesman for the tribunal administration office.

Seventeen Cambodian and 10 UN-appointed officials were sworn in during Monday's ceremony.

Two other international jurists will arrive at a later date.

Still free

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998. At present two former regime leaders, Ta Mok and Kang Keng Ieu, more commonly known as Duch, are in jail on genocide charges.

But others, including Pol Pot's "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, former head of state Khieu Samphan and former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary live freely in Cambodia.

Nuon Chea told the Associated Press on Monday that he would go before the tribunal if called, in order to clarify the past.

"I will be glad to go, so that people in my country and other countries will know the truth of what happened. Whatever they ask, I will tell them," he said.

See the judges and prosecutors being sworn in

Khmer Rouge court moves closer
18 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Khmer Rouge court gets go-ahead
30 Apr 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Long wait for Killing Fields justice
05 Oct 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Khmer Rouge genocide admission
30 Dec 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Key figures in the Khmer Rouge
17 Mar 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Pol Pot: Life of a tyrant
14 Apr 00 |  Asia-Pacific

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